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Norcross' Meeks inherits athletic talent, thrives with a new game

Despite coming from a basketball family, Norcross’ Kolby Meeks has turned her attention to the volleyball court. The senior outside hitter has learned a lot in a very short time in the sport, and will be counted on to help lead the Blue Devils to another Area 8-AAAAAA championship this fall. (Staff Photo: David Friedlander)

Despite coming from a basketball family, Norcross’ Kolby Meeks has turned her attention to the volleyball court. The senior outside hitter has learned a lot in a very short time in the sport, and will be counted on to help lead the Blue Devils to another Area 8-AAAAAA championship this fall. (Staff Photo: David Friedlander)

NORCROSS — The name Meeks has been a very familiar one around the Norcross High School gymnasium over the years.

Former Kentucky and current Los Angeles Laker guard Jodie Meeks was perhaps the most well-known member of the family to play at the House of Blue, though his sisters Brianna, who played three seasons at Cornell College in Iowa, and current Norcross student Kolby, have also distinguished themselves there.

However, it is a different sport in which Kolby, the youngest Meeks, is making her mark on the Norcross court these days.

The 5-foot-11 senior has become a mainstay for a Blue Devils volleyball program that has established a winning tradition of its own.

And after being introduced to the sport as a freshman, it has become more than just a hobby for her.

“(Basketball) was my first love,” Meeks admitted. “I first started playing volleyball — probably, I was introduced to in when I was 14. So, I didn’t have a lot of experience at first. I was really new at it.

“I always just saw the volleyball team playing and would say, ‘Wow, that looks like something I could do. I’d like to try that.’ I just wanted to get into the game, and I just fell in love with it.”

Meeks has developed so much of a passion for volleyball that she is giving up her first love, basketball, to concentrate on it her seniors year.

It was not a decision she made lightly, and one might think it would be a decision that would be difficult to express to her basketball-loving family.

However, Meeks says her family has been behind her decision 100 percent.

“My dad (Orestes) and my family are so supportive,” Meeks said. “My dad always tells me whatever I do, he’ll be there. He’ll be supportive of me. A lot of people (ask), ‘Is there a lot of pressure (to play basketball)?’ because Jodie’s my brother. Not at all. We’re so close, we talk about all of this. He just says that he’s a great example that if you work hard, it really does pay off.”

That hard work has shown in her performance on the court in both sports.

She was a solid role player for the Norcross girls basketball team during its run to the Class AAAAAA state championship last year, including games of seven points, two rebounds and a steal during a semifinal win over Langston Hughes and six points, eight boards and three steals in the title game against North Gwinnett.

But it is volleyball in which her athletic skills have really begun to blossom.

She steadily improved her game over her first three varsity seasons, rising to the level of a second-team selection to last season’s Daily Post All-County team after posting 234 kills, a .353 hitting percentage, 30 blocks and a .910 serve percentage.

“I got to Norcross her sophomore year,” Blue Devils volleyball coach Jeff Cerneka said. “When I first saw her, she was an incredible athlete, and a very quick learner. And she’s done nothing but grow in so many ways since then. She’s grown into her athleticism.”

But her biggest growth spurt, in terms of her skill level, occurred this past summer, when she played club volleyball for the first time with the GA5 program based out of Suwanee.

Meeks says the experience was quite an eye opener, and reminded her that she’s still got quite a bit to learn about the game that she’s only really been playing for four years.

“I feel like it’s helped me a lot,” Meeks said of her experience with GA5. “It’s helped me to be more aware of what’s going on instead of just hitting the ball over the net. I know (when) to hit (down the) line, hit cross (-court) or hit corner. I know my passing has gotten so much better. My (GA5) club coach April Carroll, she saw something in me I thought I’d never see. She’s been a major impact on my club life.”

The club experience has had a major impact on Meeks’ game as she currently leads the Blue Devils in kills (172), kills per game (3.9) and hitting percentage (.316), and is second on the team with 130 digs and 24 blocks.

College programs have noticed the improvement, with high-profile programs like Georgia Tech and Kentucky showing interest, though Meeks has decided to stick with her early verbal commitment to South Alabama.

And Cerneka has also noticed the difference.

“This was the first year she played club,” Cerneka said. “And she’s improved leaps and bounds. That goes to show what a year of club can do.”

But it is more than just Meeks’ on-court performance that has improved with her hard work and a year of club experience.

She’s not only become a more well-rounded player, but also a more confident on-court leader, something the Blue Devils really needed when fellow senior Sydney Marshall was lost for the season with a knee injury she suffered this summer.

“She took to (the leadership role) well,” Cerneka said. “I think she enjoys being more of a go-to girl. … It’s a new kind of role for her, but she’s embraced it with open arms.”

While Meeks agrees she’s more confident in a leadership role, she admits she still turns to Marshall and other teammates in what is a more inter-dependent relationship.

“I’ve always tried to help my team out,” Meeks said. “But I feel like it’s not just me. We’re all leaders out here. Me and the other seniors out here, we all lead this team.

“There are times when I’m like, ‘Sydney, I don’t know what to do.’ She’s more than happy to help me. She’s really close. She’s almost like my sister. I can talk to her whenever I (need) to. Sometimes, she says I’m thinking too much, and I just need to play and let it all go.”